Disability, Faith, My Life

One dead cow; My story of coming to faith in Jesus

I have mentioned before that I’m a Christian – a person who follows Jesus. I’d like to tell you how I came to this place in my life where I put my faith in Jesus Christ

For me, this is the most important part of my entire life story. Everything else falls under this story in terms of importance and impact on my life, thinking and my future.

I realize not everyone reading this will share the same beliefs, convictions and ideas that I do, but I want to tell you how I arrived at this place.

The beauty of living in the tolerant society that we live in is that you and I can have completely different beliefs, religious or political views, yet still respect one another. Hopefully. 🙂

I’ve actually been working on this piece for a number of weeks. For those close to me, they know that words come easily to me – maybe too easy. But this story took a LONG time to write!

I have contemplated writing a book one day called “One Dead Cow” however, there’s a story with a similar title called “One Dead Indian” and I wouldn’t want to steal the spotlight of that particular story, so I need to come up with a new name.

Although, if I did write a book, who would buy it when it’s all going to be on this blog…for free?

At least I know my Mom & Dad would buy a copy if I did write one! 🙂

A bit of background:

How I ended up becoming a “normal” person with a disability cannot be told, without telling the story of Jesus in my life.

I grew up in a Christian home and we went to church most Sundays. I went to Sunday school, although I never liked being with the other kids and I often stayed with my parents. I always knew I was “different.”

I thought other kids were so immature.

I, on the other hand, was far too mature and sophisticated to play silly games with kids… 🙂

Once I got to the age of 14 or 15, I recall not wanting to go to church with my parents anymore. I would stay home on Sunday mornings as I didn’t think it was relevant to me at that time in my life.

In my mind, going to church was for older people and I was a little confused about God at that point in time anyway. I recall some Sunday mornings having arguments with my parents about going to church. There came a point where it was not a requirement to go with them, so I didn’t.

My Dad would ask me occasionally, but I just wasn’t interested during that time in my life.

The year was 1994 and I was 15 (almost 16) years old. I was in high school, I had some friends and I was just doing the stuff that most young people do.

We lived on a farm and I had an ATV and a pellet gun which took up plenty of my spare time. I just didn’t “fit” at church, and I was a bit awkward, looking back on it now.

Having a disability can really mess with your mind in terms of self-confidence and “finding my place in this world” to quote Michael W. Smith.

Up until that point in time, I had gone through enough ridicule and bullying, that if I could just stay home and ride my ATV, or hang out with my parents, that was fine with me versus having a full social calendar.

Going to any social function would run the risk of getting made fun of, and that included church – so I was not interested. It might be that no one would make fun of me, but still – the risk was there.

Our family church at the time was “big” for the area we lived. Maybe 200-300 people. I felt lost in the crowd there and because I certainly wasn’t popular, I never felt like I belonged.

I want to underscore this point: My feelings are in no way the fault of that particular church or anything they did. It was just how I felt at the time.

I was just a shy, awkward kid with a disability. Lots of things were going through my mind about how I ended up “that way” and how that related to God.

It was a tough time internally….and then…

The Dead Cow

On a Wednesday evening in the spring of 1994 at about 6:15 PM there was a knock on the door.

The knock came from a local youth pastor who was driving past on his way to the church where he led a small youth group. He had noticed a dead cow in our field and he just wanted to let my Dad know it was there.

My Dad thanked him for stopping in to let him know, and then he (the youth pastor) offered to help Dad move the cow.

They went out into the field with the tractor and they loaded it into the loader of the tractor and he was on his way.

I recall my Dad commenting “that young Brown fella from down the road is a really nice guy.”

That person was Pastor Tim Brown.

At the time Tim was a volunteer youth Pastor at the church he grew up in and although it was small, he felt called to be there to lead the youth. More on this point near the bottom, so make sure you read the whole thing.

Back to the cow – We lived in a small farming community and general acts of kindness were common, so I didn’t think much of it past that day.

Sunday night church?

Fast forward a few weeks – maybe a month. I don’t really know exactly how long – it may have been longer.

It was a Sunday, late in the afternoon, and my Dad asked me if I wanted to go to church with him in the evening. Most churches back then also had a 6 or 7pm service. My Mom was working evenings and my sister was out somewhere, likely with her boyfriend.

I quickly said “No.”  I wasn’t interested in going.

But then he said: “I was thinking of going to that small church in Oil Springs – do you want to go?”

Little did I know at that moment that the previous night my Dad had a dream and in that dream, the Lord told him specifically to go to that small church in Oil Springs. For those who don’t believe in that kind of stuff – well, I don’t know what to tell you. It happened!

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; – Acts 2:17

I guess my Dad must have been considered as “old” by Biblical standards? 🙂

Now – here’s the strangest part of the whole story.

For some unknown reason, I felt compelled to go with him.

I had no idea who would be there, how many people would be there or if there would be other teenagers there. Would they make fun of me? Would I know anyone? All the questions that normally went through my mind just weren’t there in this instance.

I said “yes.”

I remember walking in the door of this small church. It had an outdated look with carpet that was legendary for its age and wild 70’s pattern.

The church was small enough that when you walked in the back door and went up the stairs, you were pretty much in the main auditorium.

It had green, movie theatre style seating for about 120 people.

I looked around and quickly surveyed the situation.

My Dad and I were clearly the youngest people in the room, except for the drummer who was in his 20’s. There were about 15 people in total, most in their late 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond.

As the service hadn’t started yet, the drummer got up from the drums to come over and greet us.

The drummer was none other than Tim Brown, that young pastor who helped Dad with the dead cow just a month or so before.

Tim welcomed me so warmly. We talked about my ATV and some small talk and then the service started. I felt quite welcome and comfortable which, in itself, was a miracle. This was not my normal “feeling” in a new situation.

Now, on a side note – let’s talk about worship music for a minute.

So many churches are hung up on having the latest music, by the latest Christian artist, the most advanced sound system, the coolest people on stage, the best vocalists & instrumentalists, cool lighting and up-to-date graphics on the screen.

None of those things are bad in themselves, so don’t hear what I’m NOT saying. What I am saying is that this church had none of that. Seriously. Nothing.

Here was the situation: 15 older people, a guy in his late 60’s wearing a suit, standing at the pulpit leading the singing and an older lady on the piano and words to only some of the songs were up on an overhead projector. Having Tim on the drums was likely a big stretch for the church.

The worship leader got up and leaned on the pulpit and said “Well folks, isn’t it great to serve the Lord?”

He looked over at the piano player and told her to start playing and we started to sing. We sang a number of old songs and hymns, mostly slow. There was little production value when compared to what a larger church might be doing, and for some unknown reason, I was mesmerized.

I remember singing “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same…the name of the Lord is to be praised” I had not heard this song before, but it was catchy.

It was awesome!

I don’t know how to explain it, but I was hooked. Any church growth book would suggest that I should NOT have been enjoying myself. There was no hook. No free gift for newcomers, no free coffee…nothing fancy about what was going on.

All I saw were 15 sincere people who loved Jesus and who loved each other. The rest was and is just semantics.

Bowling anyone?

The service was done and we were chatting at the back with a few people that I knew somewhat. In a small community, you generally know who people are, even if you don’t know them personally.

Tim came over to continue the conversation that we had started before the service began.

He told me about a youth group that met on Wednesday evenings and an event that was coming up. They were going bowling, having a scavenger hunt and then meeting back at someone’s house for pizza. Tim wondered if I might be interested in going.

At first, I thought, definitely not.

This was not the kind of event I would go to. A bunch of “normal” kids that I didn’t know, having a good time. I don’t think so. I often stayed home on Friday and Saturday nights with my Dad.

Actually, a Friday night activity that I really enjoyed at the time was going to the livestock sale in Melbourne with my Dad. I was enticed by the good hamburgers, a piece of homemade pie and then we watched the cattle sale. Good times.

Anyway – back to the church. As we were talking, my Dad encouraged me to take Tim up on the offer to go bowling with the youth group.

Tim said he could pick me up and I would be on his bowling team. I thought about it for a second and decided I might as well go. How bad could it be?

That night came and went – I did have a good time. This was one of the first times I had been to a normal recreational function, with normal kids – without my parents being there.

I know; I was almost 16 years old, but that’s the way it was. It was a big step for me at the time.

Fast forward and I began to attend Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, and youth group on Wednesday evening. I became a fixture at the church and I finally felt like I belonged.

After a couple of weeks, the Lord started to work in my heart. I was having a great time, I loved everyone at church but I still had not come to a place of faith in Jesus Christ – yet.

I want to underscore this point. Going to a church and knowing Jesus are 2 different things. They’re related, but one doesn’t equal the other.

Old Time Gospel Hour with David Ring

It was around this time that I remember one night watching TV and the “Old Time Gospel Hour” with Jerry Fallwell was on TV, . Not usually something I would watch, but the guest speaker was a gentleman named David Ring.

He was born with Cerebral Palsy and had problems walking and talking. I listened so intently as he preached.

Finally, someone, I could understand and relate to.

Up until that time I was still having difficulty reconciling my disability with the fact that God made me. I came out of the oven this way, so it’s not as if God didn’t “know.”

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  – Psalm 139:13-16

It’s like the old question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” These kinds of thoughts and ideas just kept going through my mind and I was not able to come up with a sufficient answer for myself.

I was struggling – I thought that maybe God was mad at me and that’s why I had a disability? It was a confusing time, but thankfully that time was short. God would bring clarity soon enough.

I remember the preaching on this TV program and I remember David Ring singing “Victory in Jesus”. He told not only of his disability but also of having lost his parents at a young age. What a heartbreaking story – at least I still had my parents. How could this guy, with all these outward problems stand up there and talk about Jesus in a positive way?

Some ideas going through my mind at the time went something like this:

“with all the problems I have, don’t I get a free pass? Surely there must be a side entrance to heaven for a guy like me – a different way? I’ve experienced pain and hurt. God couldn’t expect of me what he expected from everyone else, could He? Wasn’t God the one that made me this way?”

Big thoughts for such a little fella. 🙂

I sort of understood who Jesus was, that he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins…that he rose again. I knew all that stuff in my head, but at the same time, I was a little bit mad at the whole situation. Why did the kids at school not have the same problems I had?

That night I recall laying in bed. I had turned on the Christian radio station and was just listening and thinking…trying to fall asleep, but I was restless. A song came on the radio – an old chorus called “More of You” started to play. It goes like this:

More of you, more of you
I’ve had all but what I need just more of you
Of things I’ve had my fill and yet I hunger still
Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer for more of you

I’m not trying to find just some new frame of mind
That will change my old point of view
For I’ve been through it all deep inside nothing’s changed, I’m not new
I’m not seeking a gift or emotional lift but one thing I’m longing to do
Is to lift up my cup and let you fill it up with just you.

More of you, more of you
I’ve had all but what I need just more of you
Of things I’ve had my fill and yet I hunger still
Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer for more of you

I sang along with the words and at that moment I realized that all the things I was thinking about, worrying about, trying to come to terms with just did not matter.

Like everyone else, what I needed was Jesus. I needed Jesus to forgive my sin, to take away my sin, I needed Jesus to heal the hurt that was so deep inside, I needed Jesus to make me whole. It was that simple.

I was never going to mentally wrestle myself into understanding why things happened the way they did and I just needed to give it up!

I remember praying a simple prayer and asking Jesus to forgive my sins, come into my heart and that was about it. Nothing fancy. Just words from the heart.

From that night on, I wanted to understand more. I knew something happened inside. Something profound.

I read my Bible a lot just trying to learn about Jesus, I went to church, I prayed, I hung out with kids from the church. I was growing and things were changing.

This was not about being religious – thinking positive, having a new outlook on life or having faith in some unknown God.

This was about Jesus. He had somehow made Himself known to me and He made me a new person.

The sequence of events detailed above had changed the course of my life and I’m still in the process of changing every day. None of us ever “arrive” – until we’re dead. 🙂 

Who cares what people think!

The most interesting side benefit of all of this; I no longer cared what people thought of me.

Of course, people would say things or stare. That’s what people do with anything that’s “different.”

For those who don’t know me, I walk with a bit of a limp. It’s gotten a little more pronounced as I’m getting older – I’m starting to feel my age! haha

I soon realized that God had healed my heart in such a way that it no longer mattered what people said or thought. The ridicule just didn’t hurt the way it had before. I was able to let the comments roll off like water off a duck. It was truly miraculous.

Over a very short period of time, I learned who Jesus was – I learned what Jesus had done for me (dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. A debt that no one else can repay, no matter how much good you do.)

I understood that Jesus knew who I was and that HE loved me – so what else did I need? I understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

From that time onward, I never really viewed myself as a person with a disability anymore. This one event gave me confidence that I never had before.

Of course, at the same time, not everything in my body worked the same way it did for other people, but that did not matter much.

After all, what did my body function have to do with who I was and who Jesus is? I was just a normal guy, with normal friends, living a normal life. Jesus had changed me so much and I still tear up thinking about it.

Back to Pastor Tim Brown

Something I learned a few years after coming to the church was what was happening in Tim’s life during this EXACT time frame.

Prior to all this happening in my life, Tim felt called by the Lord to be there for the youth group at this particular church.

It wasn’t for the money – because there wasn’t any. He just felt called to this tiny church with a handful of kids to minister to and that was all he knew.

Support for his calling was hard to come by. The pastor and board members at the church just didn’t think he had what it would take. They questioned the calling that he felt and for him, and this was a discouraging time. He was ready to give up!

Then one night, a short kid with Spina Bifida showed up at church – on an evening where he was feeling like it was time to quit. Tim hadn’t been seeing as much growth from his ministry that he had hoped for and the opposition was discouraging.

A new kid gave him some hope to keep going apparently!

And guess what happened?

That handful of kids that had been coming out started to grow…and grow….and grow. 5 – 10 – 12 – 15 – 18…

Soon enough, on a Wednesday night, we might have 30, 40 or even 50 kids showing up for youth nights! We had more kids in the youth group than people in the church – and this was in a town of 700 people!

It wouldn’t be appropriate if I didn’t also mention Pete & Krista Mueller here as well. They were also a big part of this story. Krista is Tim’s sister. Every Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night, they both served faithfully leading worship for years. They made a difference in the lives of so many kids.

So where did all the kids come from?

In 1 Corinthians 3:6 & 7, Paul said:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Clearly, something was happening there that transcended my story, Tim’s story or any other agenda. God had somehow knit everything together and something amazing happened.

Am I saying that “I” was the cause of this growth? Definitely not. The timing just happened the way that it did and I got to be part of it.

There was a period from about 1994 to the early 2000’s where the group flourished. Kids were learning about Jesus, lifelong friendships were formed – it was truly amazing to be a part of it all.

We had so much fun together. So many of my fondest memories of my teen years included activities with this group of kids and I’m still friends with many of these same people today, over 20 years later.

In 2003, Tim was asked to become Youth Pastor at another church about 10 minutes away – a church that we often shared events with – New Life Assembly in Petrolia where he is still on staff today.

Well, folks; that’s about all for now.

I have to admit – this is by far the most personal piece I’ve ever written – but it’s been exceedingly helpful in making me look back with complete awe, thankfulness and gratitude.

I’m so thankful that the cow died.

I’m so thankful for the dream that my Dad had.

I’m so thankful that my Dad asked me to go to church that night.

I’m so thankful that Tim was there playing the drums at the church that night.

I’m so thankful that David Ring was on TV that night when I was channel-surfing – and I watched.

I’m so thankful to the Lord that He saved me, healed my broken spirit, gave me a new life and changed my future.

I am thankful.

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